XVIII The Work of the priests and Levites, ver. 1-7. The maintenance of the priests, ver. 8-20. Of the Levites, ver. 21-24. The portion they are to pay to the priests, ver. 25-32.
Verse 1. Shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary - Shall suffer the punishment of all the usurpations, or pollutions of the sanctuary, or the holy things, by the Levites, or any of the people, because you have power from me to keep them all within their bounds. Thus the people are in good measure secured against their fears. Also they are informed that Aaron's high dignity was attended with great burdens, having not only his own, but the people's sins to answer for; and therefore they had no such reason to envy him, if the benefits and dangers were equally considered. The iniquity of your priesthood - That is, Of all the errors committed by yourselves, or by you permitted in others in things, belonging to your priesthood.
Verse 2. Unto thee - About sacrifices and offerings and other things, according to the rules I have prescribed them. The Levites are said to minister to Aaron here, to the church, chap. xvi, 9, and to God, Deut. x, 8. They shall not contend with thee for superiority, as they have done, but shall be subordinate to thee. Thy sons with thee - Or, both to thee, and to thy sons with thee: Which translation may seem to be favoured by the following words, before the tabernacle, which was the proper place where the Levites ministered. Besides, both the foregoing words, and the two following verses, entirely speak of the ministry of the Levites, and the ministry of the priests is distinctly spoken of, ver. 5.
Verse 3. They charge - That is, that which thou shalt command them and commit unto them.
Verse 5. The sanctuary - Of the holy, and of the most holy place.
Verse 6. To you they are given as a gift - We are to value it as a great gift of the divine bounty, to have those joined to us, that will be helpful and serviceable to us, in the service of God.
Verse 7. The altar - Of burnt-offering. Within the veil - This phrase here comprehends both the holy and the most holy place. As a gift which I have freely conferred upon you, and upon you alone; and therefore let no man henceforth dare either to charge you with arrogance in appropriating this to yourselves, or to invade your office.
Verse 8. I have given them - Not only the charge, but the use of them for thyself and family. By reason of the anointing - That is, because thou art priest, and art to devote thyself wholly to my service.
Verse 9. Most holy - Such as were to be eaten only by the priests, and that in the sanctuary. Reserved - That is, such sacrifices or parts of sacrifices as were not burnt in the fire. Render unto me - By way of compensation for a trespass committed against me, in which case a ram was to be offered, which was a most holy thing, and may be particularly designed here.
Verse 10. In the most holy place - In the court of the priests, where there were places for this use, which is called the most holy place, not simply and absolutely, but in respect of the thing he speaks of because this was the most holy of all the places appointed for eating holy things, whereof some might be eaten in any clean place in the camp, or in their own house.
Verse 13. Whatsoever is first ripe - Not only the first-fruits of the oil and wine, and wheat now mentioned, but all other first-fruits of all other grains, and all fruittrees. Clean - And none else, because these were first offered to God, and by consequence given to priests; but for those which were immediately given to the priests, the clean and unclean might eat of them.
Verse 14. Devoted - Dedicated to God by vow or otherwise, provided it be such a thing as might be eaten: for the vessels or treasures of gold and silver which were dedicated by Joshua, David, or others, were not the priests, but appropriated to the uses of the temple.
Verse 15. Of men - Which were offered to God in his temple, and to his service and disposal.
Verse 16. Those that are to be redeemed - Namely, of men only, not of unclean beasts, as is manifest from the time and price of redemption here mentioned, both which agree to men; the time, ver. 16, the price, chap. iii, 46, 47, but neither agree to unclean beasts, which were to be redeemed with a sheep, Exod. xiii, 13, and that after it was eight days old.
Verse 17. Holy - Namely, in a peculiar manner, consecrated to an holy use, even to be sacrificed to God. Deut. xv, 19.
Verse 18. The flesh - All the flesh of them, and not only some parts, as in other sacrifices.
Verse 19. A covenant of salt - A durable and perpetual covenant; so called here and 2 Chron. xiii, 5, either, because salt is a sign of incorruption, as being of singular use to preserve things from corruption: or, because it is ratified on their part by salt, which is therefore called the salt of the covenant, for which the priests were obliged to take care, that it should never be lacking from any meat-offering, Lev. ii, 13. And this privilege conferred upon the priests is called a covenant because it is given them conditionally, upon condition of their service, and care about the worship of God.
Verse 20. In their land - In the land of the children of Israel. You shall not have a distinct portion of land, as the other tribes shall. The reason of this law, was, partly because God would have them wholly devoted to his service, and therefore free from worldly incumbrances; partly, because God had abundantly provided for them otherwise, by tithes and first-fruits and oblations; and partly that by this means being dispersed among the several tribes, they might have the better opportunity for teaching and watching over the people. I am thy part - I have appointed thee a liberal maintenance out of my oblations.
Verse 21. The tenth - For the tithes were all given to the Levites, and out of their tithes the tenth was given to the priests.
Verse 22. Nigh - So nigh as to do any proper act to the priests or Levites.
Verse 23. Their iniquity - The punishment due not only for their own, but also for the people's miscarriage, if it be committed through their connivance or negligence. And this was the reason why the priests withstood King Uzziah, when he would have burnt incense to the Lord.
24. An heave-offering - An acknowledgment that they have all their land and the fruits of it from God's bounty. Note the word heave-offering, which is for the most part understood of a particular kind of offerings heaved or lifted up to the Lord, is here used for any offering.
26. Ye shall offer up an heave-offering - They who are employed in assisting the devotions of others, must be sure to pay their own as an heave-offering. Prayers and praises, or rather the heart lifted up in them, are now our heave-offerings.
Verse 27. As though it were the corn - It shall be accepted of you as much as if you offered it out of your own lands and labours.
Verse 28. To Aaron - And to his children, who were all to have their share herein.
Verse 29. Your gifts - Not only out of your tithes, but out of the other gifts which you receive from the people, and out of those fields which shall belong to your cities. Offer - To the priest. As many gifts, so many heave-offerings; you shall reserve a part out of each of them for the priest. The hallowed part - the tenth part, which was the part or proportion that God hallowed or sanctified to himself as his proper portion.
Verse 31. Every place - In every clean place, and not in the holy place only.
Verse 32. Neither shall ye pollute the holy things - As you will do, if you abuse their holy offerings, by reserving that entirely to yourselves, which they offer to God to be disposed as he hath appointed, namely, part to you, and part to the priests.